The Office for National Statistics has reported a dramatic rise in the number of mothers now employed in either part-time or full-time work. In 1996, the figure was 3.7 million, compared with today’s figure of 4.9 million – a rise of 1.2 million. These statistics relate to women with dependent children (aged up to 16 years).
Whilst mothers of very young dependent children are still vastly under-represented in the workplace, compared with fathers of similar aged children, the gap is closing, especially with the growing trend for childcare to be shared, and even for fathers to take the lead on staying at home.
Increased flexibility within the workplace provides opportunities for parents to share parental responsibility. This 32% increase has seen women being recruited into more professional roles, including those in medicine, IT and teaching.
Women are seeking greater financial independence compared with their predecessors in the 1950s. Employers are also recognising that there is a huge vat of untapped talent to choose from and they are seeking ways of improving flexibility within their businesses and trying to close the gender divide.
Campaigners argue that more still needs to be done and say they will fight on to bring about better subsidies, increased maternity pay and greater flexibility and accessibility. For the majority of working mums, they choose employment over full time parenting due to financial necessity.
They are not working to provide the luxuries in life, but the basics. Balancing work and home life is challenging and can affect the wellbeing and stability of families.
The financial rewards are often eroded by the inflated cost of childcare, which can leave parents wondering why they bother.
The increase of free childcare from 15 hours to 30 hours a week will support this growing trend and go some way to cementing it firmly within society.
There is also a growing number of mums who feel they have invested time and energy into their education and personal development and do not want to see it wasted, knowing that one day the balance will shift back in their favour when their children are old enough and do not require child care.
They are prepared to make certain sacrifices to stay in employment.
Self-fulfillment never replaces the guilt a parent feels when leaving a child in daycare with a stranger, and society should not shun those parents that stay at home, and who are making their own personal sacrifices for their family.
If the trend continues, the future workforce could look very different, with parenting roles reversed and the new age man taking the main role in the home.
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